Path Factors
Translations of

Sanskrit स्मृत्युपस्थान (smṛtyupasthāna)
Pali satipaṭṭhāna
Chinese 念處
Japanese 念処 (nenjo)
Khmer សតិបដ្ឋាន

Glossary of Buddhism

Satipaṭṭhāna (Pali; Skt: smṛtyupasthāna) is the establishment or arousing of mindfulness, as part of the Buddhist practices leading to detachment and liberation.

Traditionally, mindfulness is thought to be applied to four domains, "constantly watching sensory experience in order to prevent the arising of cravings which would power future experience into rebirths,"[1] namely mindfulness of the body, feelings/sensations, mind/consciousness, and dhammās.[2]

The modern Theravadan Buddhism and the Vipassana or Insight Meditation Movement promote satipatthana as key techniques for achieving mindfulness, promoting "mindfulness" as meaning careful attention instead of the recollection of the dhamma.

Etymology [ edit ]

Satipaṭṭhāna is a compound term that has been parsed (and thus translated) in two ways, namely Sati-paṭṭhāna and Sati-upaṭṭhāna. The separate terms can be translated as follows:

  • Sati - Pali; Sanskrit smṛti. Smṛti originally meant "to remember," "to recollect," "to bear in mind," as in the Vedic tradition of remembering the sacred texts. The term sati also means "to remember." In the Satipațțhāna-sutta the term sati means to remember the wholesome dhammās, whereby the true nature of phenomena can be seen,[3] such as the five faculties, the five powers, the seven awakening-factors, the Noble Eightfold Path, and the attainment of insight.[4]
  • Upaṭṭhāna (Sanskrit: upasthāna) - "attendance, waiting on, looking after, service, care, ministering"[web 1]
  • Paṭṭhāna - "setting forth, putting forward;" in later Buddhist literature also "origin," "starting point," "cause."[web 2]

The compound terms have been translated as follows:

  • Sati-upaṭṭhāna - "presence of mindfulness" or "establishment of mindfulness" or "arousing of mindfulness," underscoring the mental qualities co-existent with or antecedent to mindfulness.
  • Sati-paṭṭhāna - "foundation of mindfulness," underscoring the object used to gain mindfulness.

While the latter parsing and translation is more traditional, the former has been given etymological and contextual authority by contemporary Buddhist scholars such as Bhikkhu Analayo and Bhikkhu Bodhi.[note 1]

Anālayo argues from an etymological standpoint that, while "foundation [paṭṭhāna] of mindfulness" is supported by the Pāli commentary, the term paṭṭhāna (foundation) was otherwise unused in the Pāli nikayas and is only first used in the Abhidhamma. In contrast, the term upaṭṭhāna (presence or establishment) can in fact be found throughout the nikayas and is readily visible in the Sanskrit equivalents of the compound Pāli phrase satipaṭṭhāna (Skt., smṛtyupasthāna or smṛti-upasthāna). Thus Anālayo states that "presence of mindfulness" (as opposed to "foundation of mindfulness") is more likely to be etymologically correct.[5]

Like Anālayo, Bodhi assesses that "establishment [upaṭṭhāna] of mindfulness" is the preferred translation. However, Bodhi's analysis is more contextual than Anālayo's. According to Bodhi, while "establishment of mindfulness" is normally supported by the textual context, there are exceptions to this rule, such as with SN 47.42[note 2] where a translation of "foundation of mindfulness" is best supported.[6] Soma uses both "foundations of mindfulness" and "arousing of mindfulness."[7]

Four domains or aspects [ edit ]

Traditionally, mindfulness is thought to be applied to four domains, "constantly watching sensory experience in order to prevent the arising of cravings which would power future experience into rebirths."[1] The four domains are:[2]

Mindfulness of dhammas [ edit ]

"Dhammā" is often translated as "mental objects". According to Anālayo[12] translating dhamma as "mental object" is problematic for multiple reasons. The three prior satipatthāna (body, sensations, mind) can become mental objects in themselves, and those objects, such as the hindrances, aggregates and sense bases, identified under the term dhamma are far from an exhaustive list of all possible mental objects. Anālayo translates dhammā as "mental factors and categories," "classificatory schemes," and "frameworks or points of reference to be applied during contemplation".[13] Anālayo[14] quotes Gyori[15] as stating that contemplation of these dhammā "are specifically intended to invest the mind with a soteriological orientation." He further quotes Gombrich[16] as writing that contemplating these dhammā teaches one "to see the world through Buddhist spectacles."

Within Buddhist teachings [ edit ]

In the Satipatthana Sutta the term sati means to remember the dharmas, whereby the true nature of phenomena can be seen.[3] According to Paul Williams, referring to Erich Frauwallner, mindfulness provided the way to liberation, "constantly watching sensory experience in order to prevent the arising of cravings which would power future experience into rebirths."[1][note 3] According to Vetter, dhyāna may have been the original core practice of the Buddha, which aided the maintenance of mindfulness.[17]

The four foundations of mindfulness are one of the seven sets of "states conducive to enlightenment" (Pāli bodhipakkhiyādhammā) identified in many schools of Buddhism as means for progressing toward bodhi (awakening). In the Noble Eightfold Path, they are included in sammā-sati and, less directly, sammā-samādhi. Sati is recommended as a "one-way path" for the purification from unwholesome factors, and the realization of Nibbana.[note 4]

In the Pāli Canon, this framework for systematically cultivating mindful awareness can be found in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta ("Greater Discourse on the Foundation of Mindfulness," DN 22); the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta ("Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness," MN 10), and throughout the Satipaṭṭhāna-samyutta (SN, Chapter 47). The Satipaṭṭhāna-samyutta itself contains 104 of the Buddha's discourses on the satipaṭṭhānas[19] including two popular discourses delivered to the townspeople of Sedaka, "the Acrobat"[web 4] and "the Beauty Queen".[web 5]

The Sutta Pitaka contains texts in which The Buddha is said to refer to the fourfold establishment of mindfulness as a "direct" or "one-way path" for purification and the realisation of nirvana.[note 5]

The Chinese Tripitaka also contains two parallels to the Satipatthana sutta; Madhyama Āgama No. 26 and Ekottara Agama 12.1.

The four foundations of mindfulness are also treated in scholastic and Abhidharma works. In the Theravada tradition, they are found in the Visuddhimagga, the Abhidhammattha-saṅgaha and the works of Mahasi Sayadaw.

The Buddhist texts used in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition also contain teachings on the four smṛtyupasthānāni. These include the Yogācārabhūmi, the Abhidharmakośa, the long Prajñāpāramitā sutra and the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra.

Contemporary exegesis [ edit ]

The four establishments of mindfulness are regarded as fundamental in modern Theravadan Buddhism and the Vipassana or Insight Meditation Movement. In this approach the emphasis is on mindfulness itself, as bare attention, instead of on the objects, mental states to be guarded, and the teachings to be remembered. The four establishments (Satipaṭṭhāna) meditation practices gradually develop the mental factors of samatha ("calm") and vipassana ("insight"). Thanissaro Bhikkhu notes that "satipatthana practice is often said to be separate from the practice of jhana," but argues that mindfulness is also an aid in the development of concentration.[20]

According to Buddhadasa, the aim of mindfulness is to stop the arising of disturbing thoughts and emotions, which arise from sense-contact.[21] According to Grzegorz Polak, the four upassanā have been misunderstood by the developing Buddhist tradition, including Theravada, to refer to four different foundations. According to Polak, the four upassanā do not refer to four different foundations of which one should be aware, but are an alternate description of the jhanas, describing how the samskharas are tranquilized:[22]

  • the six sense-bases which one needs to be aware of (kāyānupassanā);
  • contemplation on vedanās, which arise with the contact between the senses and their objects (vedanānupassanā);
  • the altered states of mind to which this practice leads (cittānupassanā);
  • the development from the five hindrances to the seven factors of enlightenment (dhammānupassanā).

In Indo-Tibetan Buddhism [ edit ]

The four establishments of mindfulness also known as "the four close placements of mindfulness" (dran-pa nyer-bzhag) are also taught in Indo Tibetan Buddhism as they are part of the 37 factors leading to a purified state (byang-chub yan-lag so-bdun).[23] They are discussed in Tibetan commentaries on Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra, such as Pawo Tsugla Trengwa Rinpoche’s 16th century commentary and Kunzang Pelden’s (1862-1943) commentary The Nectar of Manjushri’s Speech.[24]

The Tibetan canon also contains a True Dharma Application of Mindfulness Sutra (Tohoku Catalogue # 287, dam chos dran pa nyer bzhag, saddharmasmṛtyupasthānasutra).[25] This sutra is cited by various Tibetan Buddhist figures, such as Atisha (in his Open Basket of Jewels) and the Third Dzogchen Rinpoche (1759–1792).[26][27] It is also cited as a sutra of the first turning by Khedrup Je (1385–1438 CE).[28]

This sutra is a large text that dates from the second and fourth centuries CE and survives in Tibetan, Chinese and Sanskrit manuscripts.[29] It a complex and heterogeneous Mulasarvastivada text with various topics, such as long descriptions of the various realms in Buddhist cosmology, discussions of karma theory, meditation and ethics.[30] The earliest layer of the text, which can be found in chapter two, contains the core meditation teachings of the text, which include an extensive exposition of six elements (dhatus) meditation, meditations on feeling (vedana), meditations on the skandhas and ayatanas, meditation on the mind and impermanence, and other meditation topics organized into a structure of ten levels (bhumi).[31]

According to Jigme Lingpa's (1730–1798) Treasury of Precious Qualities, the four applications of mindfulness are emphasized during the path of accumulation and in Mahayana are practiced with a focus on emptiness:

"If one practices according to the Hinayana, one meditates on the impurity of the body, on the feelings of sufferings, on the impermanence of consciousness and on the fact that mental objects are "ownerless" (there is no self to which they belong). If one practices according to the Mahayana, during the meditation session one meditates on the same things as being spacelike, beyond all conceptual constructs. In the post-meditation period one considers them as illusory and dreamlike."[32]

The four applications of mindfulness are also discussed by Nyingma scholars like as Rong-zom-pa (eleventh century), Longchenpa (1308–1364), and Ju Mipham (1846–1912).[24] These authors describe specifically Vajrayana modes of the four smṛtyupasthānas, which have been adapted to the Vajrayana philosophy. These four "mantric" smṛtyupasthānas described by Mipham as summarized by Dorji Wangchuk as follows:[24]

(1) Contemplating (blo bzhag pa) the physical bodies of oneself and others as being characterized by primordial or intrinsic purity (dag pa), on the one hand, and by emptiness (stong pa nyid), freedom from manifoldness (spros bral), great homogeneity (mnyam pa chen po), and integrality (zung du ’jug pa), on the other, is called kāyasmṛtyupasthāna.

(2) Transforming “conceptual constructions whose occurrence one feels/senses (or is aware of)” (byung tshor gyi rtog pa) into gnosis characterized by great bliss (bde ba chen po’i ye shes) is called vedanāsmṛtyupasthāna.

(3) Channelling or containing/constraining (sdom pa) all kinds of manifoldness associated with mind and mental factors into/in/to the innate sphere of the luminous nature of the mind is called cittasmṛtyupasthāna.

(4) Conducting oneself in a way (or with an attitude) that all saṃsāric and nirvāṇic, universal and particular phenomena are pure and equal and hence beyond adoption or rejection, is dharmasmṛtyupasthāna.

Examples of contemporary figures in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism that have taught this practice include Chogyam Trungpa who often taught these practices in the USA and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, a contemporary Tibetan lama.[33][34] They have also been taught by the 14th Dalai Lama and students of his like Alexander Berzin and Thubten Chodron.[23] The general presentation of this practice in the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition focuses on cultivating śamatha first, and then practicing vipaśyanā.[24]

See also [ edit ]

Notes [ edit ]

  1. ^ For the traditional use of the translation, "foundations [paṭṭhānā] of mindfulness," see, e.g., Gunaratana (2012) and U Silananda (2002). For appraisals supporting the parsing of the suffix as upaṭṭhāna, see, e.g., Anālayo (2006), pp. 29-30; and, Bodhi (2000), p. 1504.
  2. ^ pp. 1660, 1928 n. 180
  3. ^ Frauwallner, E. (1973), History of Indian Philosophy, trans. V.M. Bedekar, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Two volumes., pp.150 ff
  4. ^ "Bhikkhus, this is the one-way path for the purification of beings,
    for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation,
    for the passing away of pain and displeasure,
    for the achievement of the method,[subnote 1]
    for the realization of Nibbāna,
    that is, the four establishments of mindfulness.[subnote 2] The wholesome establishments of mindfulness are contrasted with the unwholesome qualities of the five strands of sensuality, namely pleasant sensations from the eye, the ear, the tongue and the body.[18]
  5. ^ See the Satipatthana sutta (MN 10; DN 22); as well as SN 47.1, 47.18 and 47.43. These five discourses are the only canonical sources for the phrase, "ekāyano ... maggo" (with this specific declension).

    The Pāli phrase "ekāyano ... maggo'" has been translated as:
    • "direct path" (Bodhi & Gunaratana, 2012, p. 12; Nanamoli & Bodhi, 1995; Thanissaro, 2008)
    • "one-way path"(Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1627-8, 1647-8, 1661)
    • "the only way" (Nyanasatta, 2004; Soma, 1941/2003)
    • "the one and only way" (Vipassana Research Institute, 1996, pp. 2, 3)
  1. ^ Bodhi (2000, SN 47 n. 123, Kindle Loc. 35147) notes: "Spk [the commentary to the Samyutta Nikaya] explains the 'method' (ñāya) as the Noble Eightfold Path...."
  2. ^ SN 47.1 (Bodhi, 2000, p. 1627). Also see DN 22, MN 10, SN 47.18 and SN 47.43.

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ a b c Williams 2000, p. 46.
  2. ^ a b Kuan 2008, p. i, 9, 81.
  3. ^ a b Sharf 2014, p. 942.
  4. ^ Sharf 2014, p. 942-943.
  5. ^ Anālayo (2006), pp. 29-30
  6. ^ Bodhi (2000), p. 1504
  7. ^ Soma (1941/2003)
  8. ^ (Pāli: kāya-sati, kāyagatā-sati; Skt. kāya-smṛti)
  9. ^ (Pāli vedanā-sati; Skt. vedanā-smṛti)
  10. ^ (Pāli citta-sati; Skt. citta-smṛti)
  11. ^ (Pāli dhammā-sati; Skt. dharma-smṛti)
  12. ^ Anālayo 2006, pp. 182-86
  13. ^ Anālayo 2006 p. 183
  14. ^ Anālayo 2006 p. 183, nn. 2, 3
  15. ^ Gyori 1996, p. 24
  16. ^ Gombrich 1996, p. 36
  17. ^ Vetter 1988.
  18. ^ SN 47.6 (Thanissaro, 1997) and SN 47.7 (Olendzki, 2005).
  19. ^ Samyutta Nikaya, Ch. 47. See Bodhi (2000), pp. 1627ff.
  20. ^ " Maha-satipatthana Sutta: The Great Frames of Reference" (DN 22), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, .
  21. ^ Buddhadasa Bhikkhu 2014, p. 79, 101, 117 note 42.
  22. ^ Polak 2011, p. 153-156, 196-197.
  23. ^ a b Berzin, Alexander. "The Four Close Placements of Mindfulness in Mahayana". Study Buddhism. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  24. ^ a b c d Weiser, Thomas A. C. (2011) Three Approaches to the Four Foundations:An Investigation of Vipassanā Meditation, Analytical Meditation and Śamatha/Vipaśyanā Meditation on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, pp. 33-36. Naropa University. Cite error: The named reference ":0" was defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  25. ^ "General Sūtra Section". Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  26. ^ Apple, James B (2019). Jewels of the Middle Way: The Madhyamaka Legacy of Atisa and His Early Tibetan Followers, pp. 80-81. Simon and Schuster.
  27. ^ Dzogchen Rinpoche (2008) Great Perfection: Outer and Inner Preliminaries. Shambhala Publications
  28. ^ Wayman, Alex (1993). Introduction to Buddhist Tantric Systems: Translated from Mkhas Grub Rje's Rgyud Sde Spyihi Rnam Par Gzag Pargyas Par Brjod with Original Text and Annotation. p. 45.
  29. ^ Stuart, Daniel Malinowski (2012) A Less Traveled Path: Meditation and Textual Practice in the Saddharmasmrtyupasthana(sutra) pp. 25-27.
  30. ^ Stuart, Daniel Malinowski (2012) A Less Traveled Path: Meditation and Textual Practice in the Saddharmasmrtyupasthana(sutra) pp. 29-31.
  31. ^ Stuart, Daniel Malinowski (2012) A Less Traveled Path: Meditation and Textual Practice in the Saddharmasmrtyupasthana(sutra) pp. 46, 70-75.
  32. ^ Longchen Yeshe Dorje, Jigme Lingpa (2010). Treasury of Precious Qualities: Book One, p. 391. Shambhala Publications.
  33. ^ See for example, Chögyam Trungpa (1991) The Heart of the Buddha: Entering the Tibetan Buddhist Path. Shambhala Publications
  34. ^ Dzogchen Ponlop. The Four Foundations Of Mindfulness, Excerpted from a teaching in Vermont, 1996. Originally published in Bodhi Magazine, Issue 3.

Sources [ edit ]

Printed sources [ edit ]

  • Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (2014), Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree, Wisdom publications
  • Gombrich, Richard F. (1996). How Buddhism Began: The Conditioned Genesis of the Early Teachings. Cited in Anālayo (2006). London: Athlone Press. ISBN 0-415-37123-6.
  • Gyori, Thomas I. (1996). The Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipatthāna) as a Microcosm of the Theravāda Buddhist World View (M.A. dissertation). Cited in Anālayo (2006). Washington: American University.
  • Kuan, Tse-fu (2008), Mindfulness in Early Buddhism: New Approaches through Psychology and Textual Analysis of Pāli, Chinese and Sanskrit Sources, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-43737-7
  • Polak, Grzegorz (2011), Reexamining Jhana: Towards a Critical Reconstruction of Early Buddhist Soteriology, UMCS
  • Sharf, Robert (October 2014), "Mindfulness and Mindlessness in Early Chan" (PDF), Philosophy East and West, 64 (4): 933–964
  • Williams, Paul; Tribe, Anthony (2000), Buddhist Thought, Routledge
  • Vetter, Tilmann (1988), The Ideas and Meditative Practices of Early Buddhism, BRILL

Web-sources [ edit ]

Further reading [ edit ]

  • Polak, Grzegorz (2011), Reexamining Jhana: Towards a Critical Reconstruction of Early Buddhist Soteriology, UMCS

External links [ edit ]

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